Sunday, January 16, 2005

All posts were moved (11/2006) to

Save the worms!

"By the time you get to the bottom, it wouldn't matter if there was a dime at the bottom," Jan. 16, 2005, 12:12AM Is mescal's worth all about the worm? Makers will soon find out, as Mexico bans the liquor's legendary addition By JENALIA MORENO Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle (registration required) ...(snip)... Hoping to upgrade mescal's image, the Mexican government drafted new standards for the smoky-flavored liquor more than 10 years ago. And beginning Feb. 10, bottlers will no longer be allowed to add worms, fruit or herbs to their mescal. As might be expected, the new standards don't sit well with its brewers and distributors. "The worm draws your attention," said Celia Villanueva, the founder of Houston-based Mexcor, which distributes the Lajita brand. "It's popular with young people." Jose Villanueva, one of the industry leaders who participated in earlier stages of developing the regulations, hopes Mexico's secretary of economy intervenes before the new rules take effect. "The standards were badly done," he said .If they stand, he said, abandoning the worm would hurt mescal sales. "What we've seen from the export market is that the market asks for it," said Oralia Aragon, a manager at the Mexican Regulatory Commission for the Quality of Mescal ....(snip)... Mescal is often made by mom-and-pop producers, primarily in the southern state of Oaxaca, where small distilleries line rugged roads. Some of the smallest producers sell mescal in plastic containers.In addition to selling bottles, these vendors deal in mescal and worm folklore. They say the worm has aphrodisiac qualities or that consuming the worm is good luck. But some consumers simply drink mescal-based cocktails for their flavor. "By the time you get to the bottom, it wouldn't matter if there was a dime at the bottom," said Steve Wiley, who sipped a Oaxaca Rita, a margarita made with mescal rather than tequila, at Hugo's, a Mexican restaurant, on a recent night. ...(snip)... The worm found its way into bottles of mescal more than five decades ago when producers wanted to create a smoother flavor for the potent libation, said Jose Villanueva, whose company makes both tequila and mescal. ...(snip)... Native to the heart of the agave, the bug comes out when it rains, allowing worm wranglers an easy harvest. Loaded with protein, these critters are part of the regional cuisine in southern Mexico, where cooks often fry them and add spices. Worms are so popular that they cost several cents each. There's even a shortage of the crawly creatures in Mexico, Villanueva said. So if the mescal industry loses its fight against the government, worm eaters may find the delicacy more abundant — and cheaper.But the industry would find itself without its classic icon."It would be absurd if the government doesn't intervene," Villanueva said.


Post a Comment

<< Home